Monday, February 6, 2017

Resistance is built on hope.

"Love casts out fear the way light casts out darkness. In the presence of one the other is gone." ~ Marianne Williamson

The hashtag #lovetrumpshate, while I agree with the sentiment, it does not sit well with me. I am war-weary and fatigued of the mud slinging on both sides of our politically and racially divided country. 
"Protecting ourselves and others does not violate ahimsa. Practicing ahimsa means we take responsibility for our own harmful behavior and attempt to stop the harm caused by others. Being neutral is not the point. Practicing true ahimsa springs from the clear intention to act with clarity and love." ~ Judith Lasater 
The answer to violence (in words or deed) is non-violence. It is love. "Love liberates." (Maya Angelou) Being a bully to a bully doesn't present a peaceful solution or the desired results. In my own experience the cycle of blame, shame and slinging back heated comments and remarks just fuels the flame. 
Ahimsa Pratisthayam Tat Samnidhau Vaira Tyagah."When nonviolence is established, all beings lose their violent capacity." Yoga Sutra 2.35

Ahimsa is not causing pain in thought, word, or deed to yourself or others. Avoiding comparison or competition with others. Avoiding gossip and negative self-talk. It is not "no pain, no gain" in regards to asana practice or in worldly efforts. By cultivating respect for yourself, ahimsa honors you and others. Perhaps it is why many of us practice physical asana in yoga. We are looking for a deeper awareness within ourselves. 

With that awareness, we have the ability to create healthy boundaries that allow for healing within and with each other. What good is that awareness if we do not take it into our own home or into the world? 

Could it be as simple as this: heart open, mind open to listening with the intent of being changed by what we hear? The catch is both parties have to be willing. Even with differing beliefs, we are all still the same. Have you seen this viral video? Take 3 minutes now. 
Kayedria Siddhir Asuddhi Ksayah Tapasah."When you practice yoga, sensory perception awakens more."Yoga Sutra 2.43
Tapas is accepting but not causing suffering (ahimsa) in order to purify the body and mind. Tapas is the ultimate self-discipline, which is the power to control the body and it's senses. If we accept everything (finding the benefit even in painful situations or circumstances) or even happiness (which is temporary also), what can affect us?

A non-violent revolution is exactly the essence of what John Lewis, famed civil rights leader, shared with OnBeing in a recent podcast featuring civil liberties. He shared that the only true integration existed within the movement itself. It did not matter black or white, north or south,  for those that were in the struggle for equality, they were one. He shared how they resisted: studying, preparing their minds, practicing peaceful actions such as maintaining eye contact, no slouching, no talking, being friendly and courteous. They practiced role playing of inter-racial groups using mock harassment, name calling, and what to do when someone kicked or spit on you. They wanted people to feel like they were in the actual situation, that it could happen. When beaten, they were taught to protect the most sensitive parts of their body, to look out for one another, and to look those attacking you in the eye because it was disarming to them. 


Take a long, hard look down the road you will have to travel once you have made a commitment to work for change. Know that this transformation will not happen right away. Change often takes time. It rarely happens all at once. In the movement, we didn't know how history would play itself out. When we were getting arrested and waiting in jail or standing in unmovable lines on the courthouse steps, we didn’t know what would happen, but we knew it had to happen. 
Use the words of the movement to pace yourself. We used to say that ours is not the struggle of one day, one week, or one year. Ours is not the struggle of one judicial appointment or presidential term. Ours is the struggle of a lifetime, or maybe even many lifetimes, and each one of us in every generation must do our part. And if we believe in the change we seek, then it is easy to commit to doing all we can, because the responsibility is ours alone to build a better society and a more peaceful world.” ~ John Lewis

The civil rights leaders at that time had a belief and hope that somehow things are going to get better. A sense of faith that what they were moving toward was already done and already won. Living as if they were already there in that unified, de-segregated community as a part of One family. "If you can even have faith that it is there. For you, it is there."

Let's keep walking and moving forward on this non-violent path together. Starting with ourselves, our own children and communities and on a broader scale act and respond as if the peace were already present. Propelled by hope, we are already one. 

We can resist. But as we continue to learn from history, there are specific, strategic and powerful non-non-violent ways of doing so. I'd love to hear what you're doing. Here's some things I'm doing (see this link). 
“You are a light. You are the light. Never let anyone—any person or any force—dampen, dim or diminish your light. Study the path of others to make your way easier and more abundant. Lean toward the whispers of your own heart, discover the universal truth, and follow its dictates. […] Release the need to hate, to harbor division, and the enticement of revenge. Release all bitterness. Hold only love, only peace in your heart, knowing that the battle of good to overcome evil is already won. Choose confrontation wisely, but when it is your time don't be afraid to stand up, speak up, and speak out against injustice. And if you follow your truth down road to peace and the affirmation of love, if you shine like a beacon for all to see, then the poetry of all the great dreamers and philosophers is yours to manifest in a nation, a world community, and a Beloved Community that is finally at peace with itself.” ~ John Lewis


Thursday, February 2, 2017

A new day, A new beginning

Each morning the sun rises.
Allow your gaze to meet the East with those tired, sleepless eyes.
As the sun’s rays spread their warmth on your skin, feel. 
Dare to feel again, just for this present moment.

You are like that sun. 
Still brilliant in the dark, the only thing hiding your rays is the fear you perceive. 
Come home. 

There is a place within you, that no one can take, tarnish or diminish.
It is the You that is radiant, at the core. Pure Love.

Not sinful, wrong, irreverent, dirty or broken. There is a place that is without pain.
You are so much more than the vessel of skin and bones that carry you. 

You are Alive.
You matter. 
You’re a part of something greater. 

As the rising sun kisses and warms your skin, it warms mine.
We are the same, you and I. Different experiences have formed and shaped us, but when we strip it all down to our essence: 

We all fear, cry, laugh and rejoice. 

We are family. 
We are. 
You and I. 


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

There you can be sure you are not beyond love.

A poem by David Whyte, "Sweet Darkness"




When your eyes are tired
 the world is tired also.

When your vision has gone,
 no part of the world can find you.

Time to go into the dark
 where the night has eyes
 to recognize its own.

There you can be sure
 you are not beyond love.

The dark will be your home
 tonight.

The night will give you a horizon
 further than you can see.

You must learn one thing.
 The world was made to be free in.

Give up all the other worlds
 except the one to which you belong.

Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
 confinement of your aloneness
 to learn

anything or anyone
 that does not bring you alive

is too small for you.

BY  

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Womans March 2017






"Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, 
penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope." 
~ Maya Angelou

#WhyIMarch

I marched for my children and to show solidarity of women worldwide for not only equality but integrity for everyone-- all. My hope and prayer is that my sons will grow up to be men of honor in words and actions toward all people. 

My oldest son goes to school in the "inner city" with kids from every walk of life and color. It's also known as the school that is "kind" to LGBT. He's already had to deal with a situation at school when kids got into "locker room talk" and bullying with a bi-sexual student.  My son learned first hand how destructive this kind of behavior is. And, that silence when a group is bullying is actually consent. When we don't speak up, others will assume you condone the behavior. When he just learned this lesson, how can I NOT walk? 
When we show up, we empower ourselves and others to boldly do the same. Now the real action is to keep at it. Keep showing up for my kids, calling my senators, contribute to causes that matter to me, and at the heart of it all being KIND. You don't have to like someone to be kind, loving or gracious. The very thing we criticize the POTUS of doing (the blaming, name calling, bullying and whining), we are also guilty of. There's no reason to shame, blame or not be kind-- even to those we totally disagree with or have different views from. I will not be cruel when I speak my opinions of him or his actions. Just the facts-- and they speak for themselves. If you need fuel to motivate you to post-march action, I think this article lays it out nicely.




Here's what I am doing to affect change: 
1. Taking care of myself and my family by getting my own affairs in order: 
  • health: Health insurance (health shares are exempt from Affordable Health Care). Eating clean and moving my body as a priority 
  • future planning: made a will, sorted finances, etc.
  • my children: talk, read with, share hard conversations and teach integrity. Teach mindfulness tools to my son's teachers

2. Political action:
  • wallofus.org website sends daily activism such as calling and writing to senators about issues important to me and affecting our country. 
  • Using an app called #boycott to make my voice heard about products that hurt the environment
  • INSPIRING what is NEXT video by the Obamas: Obama.org-- new presidential center where they are asking people to submit ideas on what they should focus on for their foundation. 
  • Womansmarch.org also sends out action items and suggestions.

🇺🇸
3. Love and
service in things that matter close to my heart:
  • Stay educated and give back: Alzheimer's Society in Calgary showed the movie Still Alice last night and had a neurologist to answer questions. Son #2 and I went to learn and talk about what we can do to keep our brain healthy, how this disease needs more funding for research for a cure, the stigma of the disease compared with cancer.
  • Caregivers of Alzheimer's Retreat in Houston, November 2017, apply today. It is free for all caregivers. 

And
Love
Respect
Kindness
What are you doing? I'd love to know more. Please keep comments positive, action reoriented.

And if you made it this far and need to laugh, here you go. You're welcome. 




For more and to sign up for free yoga nidra and newsletter .... MelissaSmithYoga.com 

All photos by Melissa Smith.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

"When somebody shows you who they are, believe them the first time." 
~Maya Angelou
When we really observe someone and stop seeing them as we want them to be, and view them as they truly are, we become discerning. Not so that we can retaliate or shut them out of our lives, but so that we can decide to be empathic, kind or love them from a distance. 
When there's no sign or acknowledgment of a wrong doing then boundaries are helpful. There are peaceful solutions to loving them from afar. However, we can also choose grace because I do believe in the potential and hope for something new to grow within us and collectively through healthy communication and sincere effort. 
Hope can be a life raft in a sea of unknown.
Pema Chodron surprisingly, speaks against hope, saying it's akin to fear. "Hope and fear is a feeling with two sides. As long as there’s one, there’s always the other. This is the root of our pain. In the world of hope and fear, we always have to change the channel, change the temperature, change the music, because something is getting uneasy, something is getting restless, something is beginning to hurt, and we keep looking for alternatives."

When there is fear, we react but we don't have to. We can choose to observe it and see if it's really something to be concerned about. Most of the time, if we take the time to look at what we are afraid of, we realize it's not as powerful as we give it credit for. 

Hope as an expectation or savior from any suffering the fear has caused is not hope in it's purest form. Hope can be the antidote to fear. 

But to me, holding hope isn't like having an expectation. It is much more like: not fighting the world. Allowing things as they are. It's also holding lightly the possibility of peace within turbulence. And that to me is brave. "If we want there to be peace int he world, we have to be brave enough of soften what is rigid in our hearts, to find the soft spot and stay with it." 

Hope, peace, empathy and forgiveness are all the roots of a courageous and observant life. 

May you hold lightly to things today, including those who prick at your peace by showing you their humanity and imperfection. Isn't it all a practice?  

Retreats and Restorative and Sustainable Yoga Immersions: MelissaSmithYoga.com





Friday, September 16, 2016

10 things that transformed my week


This post will be a (somewhat) weekly cliff note version of what I've gleamed from everything I've read, listened to, experienced, observed or discovered during the week. From the essentials to the inspirational finds, I've boiled it all down to my favorite things at the present moment.

It's what I'm learning this week. The things that motivate and make me feel alive. Things that make me laugh and cry or cringe and want to take over the world. Or at least in my head. I hope you enjoy... and share. I'd also love to know in the comments what's shaping your week and transforming you?

What's Malcolm Gladwell's take on the power behind the song Hallelujah by Lenard Cohen? His new  podcast series has changed my life-- or at the very least my perception of it. This episode in particular hit me. Then, made me do this.

Who is Ruby Sales? Her voice, her story and why she's an obscure part of our american history.

What is the best exercise for back pain? It is not what you think. (The best researched based article I've ever read.)

The slow yoga moment. Want to join the conversation? If you're a yoga teacher/ serious student, join me on this by request only Facebook Group.

How do you create value (in your work)? This is your checklist.

The least intimidating way to start a meditation practice. Want to go deeper?

I'm counting down to this adventure. And this wonder of the world.

Why I'm falling in love with Calgary and what we're up to this weekend.

These illustrations make me smile.

I am reordering notecards from a commissioned art this week from this artist.

Happy Weekend, y'all!

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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Tips for Yoga as a Movement Exploration

Why do you practice Yoga? I’ve been exploring this theme in my own practice this past week. With a shoulder injury and limited range of motion, I’ve found my Yoga looks more restorative and less structured than ever before. I practice on my mat today to explore movement in my body and to feel more at ease with my thoughts. Yoga, to me, is not about perfecting a pose or performing. (Although Instagram photos might have you think otherwise.) 

I’m more interested in how people can approach this practice of Yoga with love, joy and curiosity for their body than I am teaching them the steps to fix this or that. When I sit with a student to explore alignment of postures, it’s so much more than the shape that their body makes. It’s about observing with a spirit of inquiry to see how the body moves from and into the pose. How absolutely curious we can be about the sensation beyond the surface of the skin and into what is happening within the body, however subtle so that we can begin to reject any numbing or avoidance of sensations and embrace and explore ourselves with tenderness.

Sometimes, though, you just have to move, breath and not think about it all so much. That’s when the practice becomes a meditation. The breath moves the body as if it were a symphony of individual notes to compose our body’s most beautiful work, however messy or imperfect it feels or looks on the outside. That’s when pose itself is not focus but simply being courageous enough to be still within the spaces of the movement or move slow enough to feel more fully. 

The gift of Yoga is sensitivity to our bodies, and ultimately, sensitivity to life.

As you explore movement (Yoga or otherwise) this week consider a few things to help you become more aware and easeful. 

Take a walk in nature without your phone on you at all.TObserve how you move or don’t move your arms. What does it feel like to change up the pace or pattern of your walking?  

If you normally go to a Yoga class, practice Yoga without instruction (on your own) or without music. Just allowing your intuition and breath to be your guide. What do you observe?

Whatever activity you’re dong during the day, notice your breath. Is it shallow, deep, full or feather light? Every time you bring your attention to your breath, take 5 more with the focus of moving your ribs in a full, round way. Feel the front, side, back and in-between the ribs as your breath folds and unfolds. Do this at least 3-5 times in one day for different activities and notice if you feel more or less energy. More or less concentration. 

Whatever movement you choose to do this week, observe how it might help you do something else more attentively. For example, when I begin to move on my Yoga mat with the purpose of unwinding and twisting and curving or extending my spine, I feel instant softness in my upper torso. Later, when I sit at my computer, I find my shoulders often become tense, and I need to move and shift to relieve tension. As soon as I recognize the tension, I move my spine in every direction and with that small movement, I’m able to focus more, as if I hit a reset button my brain. What movement on your mat makes you more aware in your daily activities?

Move with no goal in mind. Can you find an activity that you can do without the aim of perfection or performance? Just move for the sake of moving or having fun!

Reflect this week if your journey can be more of a playful exploration than technique driven outcome. Alignment is important but not at the expense of pleasurable, exploratory movement that just makes you feel good. A great litmus test is: Do I feel safe in this pose? And, how will I feel a few days after? If the answer is yes and good, then your practice is much more likely to bring you that Ananda (joy) and cultivate Prema (love) that you seek. 


In Joy, 
Melissa

For Yoga Teachers, I’d love to work with you to figure out your next step start now with a free 45 session: 3 month Accompaniment for Yoga teachers. Book a private session in Calgary or Houston now with a special price for 2 sessions, email me for dates.